Beginning in 2016, Americans were and continue to be exposed to the full and formidable force of a new kind of yellow journalism. One could also describe it as influence journalism. It’s not really the same thing as propaganda, which comes directly from a political party or regime seeking to indoctrinate the masses with certain beliefs and ideas. That’s not to say that establishment media outlets in the US today do not peddle government propaganda, but yellow journalism is quite different. On Sunday, Feb. 12, a famed Washington, DC, newspaper with strong ties to the political left presented a masterclass in a modern version of yellow journalism that deserves careful analysis. Why? Because the story in question perfectly exposes – though unwittingly so – the truly insidious nature of news articles explicitly written to influence how Americans view certain events or individuals with the goal of affecting elections in one direction or another. Some may argue the legacy media has been at this kind of thing for a long time but the renewed vigor of such journalism since the advent of Donald Trump cannot be ignored.
Welcome to Yellow Journalism
Britannica defines yellow journalism as “[T]he use of lurid features and sensationalized news in newspaper publishing to attract readers and increase circulation.” Similarly, the online dictionary Wordnick delineates it as “Journalism that exploits, distorts, or exaggerates the news to create sensations and attract readers.” The term “yellow journalism” has been around since the late 1800s. These days, however, it is no longer primarily about attracting more readers but creating perceptions. Though this practice predates 2016 for over a century, it was the arrival of Donald J. Trump, who dared cross over from the world of business to the political scene that sparked a massive new trend in the media with an uptick in the creation of phony scandals and the weaving of powerful narratives to influence political and electoral outcomes.
The news story in question here was penned by one Michael Kranish, who is, perhaps somewhat dubiously, described as a political investigative reporter. The 3,713-word piece was published on the Washington newspaper’s front page – with top billing. It ran under the title, “After helping prince’s rise, Trump and Kushner benefit from Saudi funds.” The alert reader may notice the timing of such a supposed exposé is suspect.
The saga of the Biden family’s questionable business dealings with foreign companies, most notably in China, has only recently gotten underway as a House subcommittee begins to explore a vast amount of data, much of which appears to finger the president as a partner and player in his son’s international business dealings. This comes only after several years of multiple forces aggressively trying to debunk the information recovered from the computer as nothing more than Russian disinformation.
Joe Biden has consistently and repeatedly claimed he knew nothing of his son’s multi-million dollar business deals, but emails in his computer – actual evidence — show this to be false. To make a very long story short, the current commander-in-chief is not likely to emerge unscathed from what is certain to be at least two years of investigation and discovery by House Republicans.
This is a very serious situation for Mr. Biden, and it stands to reason that his media supporters will go to great lengths to ridicule, bury, trivialize, or deflect from the unfolding scandal.
What better way to achieve this than coming up with a parallel tale of wheeling and dealing and money-making involving members of the Trump family and another foreign power? It’s peak whataboutism; oh, you’re claiming the Bidens used their influence to make money from the Chinese and the Ukrainians, but how about what Trump and Jared Kushner were doing in Saudi Arabia?
This is a Big Deal – We Promise
Three essential indicators that this so-called investigative report is a smoke-screen jump out immediately: The article was published on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday, when friends and families would be getting together to watch the big game and could easily become a topic of conversation. The article was also featured prominently on the newspaper’s front page to give the impression that it’s a notable, damning discovery of more Trump crimes and works hard trying to convince the reader that it is a bombshell. The length and depth of the article make a concerted effort — one could call it a Herculean effort — to convince the reader of wrongdoing by the former president and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The newspaper makes every effort to convince the reader that it is publishing an epic scandal.
The tale begins with a review of several Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) forms. Next, the author threw in some details gleaned from the memoirs of former government officials along with its stable of ubiquitous anonymous sources. Does this already look like a new version of the debunked Trump-Russia collusion story? We will know the answer to that question when additional left-leaning media outlets take up the narrative over the coming days, as they almost certainly will.
From the outset, it is not entirely clear how Trump and his son-in-law and former advisor, Kushner, helped Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman rise to power. MBS, as he is often known, was quite powerful before Trump even got to the White House. While there is no denying that he had a good relationship with the 45th president, bin Salman was a resourceful figure in his own right. The Saudi royal family has never been much for conducting its affairs to suit outside influences, and MBS would likely have ascended to the station he now enjoys regardless of who occupies the White House. He was named Crown Prince in 2017 while Trump was president of the United States. That appears to be the only evidence the intrepid Washington reporter has that MBS owes his position to Trump or Kushner.
The Business of Business
The rest of the article focuses on the fact that Kushner and the Trump Organization have struck business deals with the Saudis. Kushner reportedly created a private equity firm with money from a Saudi sovereign wealth fund. Mohammed bin Salman happens to chair that fund. The Trump Organization has hosted tournaments arranged by Saudi-backed LIV Golf – a competitor to the PGA – at its golf courses. Additionally, there have been negotiations regarding the construction of a Trump hotel and golf resort in Oman.
Unlike Hunter Biden, Jared Kushner has a background in finance and investment. Given that he undoubtedly developed contacts in Saudi Arabia while spearheading the formulation of the Abraham Accords – which brought the Middle East closer to peace than it has been for at least several decades – it really is not that surprising that he later pursued investment opportunities in the middle east. It’s also worth noting the Trump Organization had done business with the Saudis before Mr. Trump entered politics.
On the other hand, the junior Biden secured a multimillion-dollar private equity deal with a Chinese bank while his father was serving as vice president. His lack of finance experience and no prior dealings in China are why many believe there was an undercurrent of influence-peddling . Thus his multi-million dollar business dealings can and should be considered suspect.
Trump, of course, was in real estate before he moved into TV and then politics. Planning a golf resort and hotel in Oman is not really that surprising – nor is it illegal.
The Sources and Methods of a Hit-Piece
One of the paper’s sources, described as a “former administration official allied with Kushner” who remains unidentified, said, “there are numerous examples of top former government employees doing business with people they once dealt with while in public service.” Certainly, that would be true – but not just in the case of the Trump administration. The paper also quotes “experts” as saying, “[Kushner’s] business used a commonly employed strategy that allows many equity firms to avoid transparency about funding sources.” Since this is a commonly employed strategy, aside from the broader question of ethics in business, nothing untoward or nefarious occurred.
Still, the author was eager to point out that Jared Kushner became Trump’s Middle East point man despite having “no foreign policy experience.” In yet another effort intended to appear ominous or shady because it was formatted as its own paragraph to make it stand out, the author wrote:
“Kushner declined to comment.”
The assumption is that the president’s son-in-law would cooperate with a powerful journalistic entity that has spent years smearing his family and opposing the Trump administration at every turn. That is the real shocker.
The missing context is that Kushner is Jewish. That fact alone, and that he was a member of the president’s inner circle made him an ideal candidate to broker a peace deal in the Middle East. How many people, with several decades of foreign policy experience between them, failed to do what Kushner and Trump achieved in the region?
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) told the paper, “The financial links between the Saudi royal family and the Trump family raise very serious issues.” If you replace “Saudi royal family” with “China” and replace “Trump family” with “Biden family” in the senator’s comment, does that not also raise serious issues? Democrats like Wyden do not think it does in the case of the Bidens.
The paper also raises the question of “significant human rights issues” in Saudi Arabia, as if that is relevant to the story. For sure, the kingdom has an abysmal human rights record, but China’s could be considered as much worse since it is conducted on a much larger scale. It should be noted that the American media and entertainment industries are never berated by the left-wing media for their very deep ties to China. Indeed, no one on the left has attempted to chastise Hunter and the president’s brother, Jim Biden, for their Chinese deals.
Of course, the article also cites “some national security experts” who apparently were concerned “that Trump and Kushner used their offices to set themselves up to profit from their relationship with the Saudis after the administration ended.” Well then. That must be serious because some national security experts say so. At this point, it is worth recalling the 51 former Intelligence Community officials who signed a letter detailing their “concerns” that the laptop now known to have belonged to Hunter Biden was nothing more than a part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
To put the icing on the cake, the article quotes John Bolton. He was Trump’s national security advisor for a time and later had a very public falling out with his former boss. “I think it was an obvious opportunity for them to build their Rolodexes,” Bolton is quoted as saying about Trump and Kushner’s work with the Saudis. “And I think they were probably hard at work at it, particularly Jared.” To the establishment media, Bolton was, for many years, practically the Devil incarnate. Not a word that came out of his mouth was to be believed. Once he turned on Trump, though, he was in their good graces. But publishing a quote from Bolton that reflects negatively on Trump or Jared Kushner – and there was always tension between Bolton and Kushner while they were in the White House together – is hardly compelling, nor is it evidence of any wrongdoing.
What happened in the Washington offices of this newspaper was the creation, seemingly from whole cloth, of a supposed scandal that – so the creators hope – will rival the Hunter Biden affair and perhaps even overshadow it. Call it yellow journalism, influence journalism, or fake news, the manipulation by the leftist media continues apace. This was a masterpiece of random facts, solicited quotes, tenuous threads, and pure speculation stitched together for the consumption of Trump’s critics and haters. But putting the story out there has the potential bonus of perhaps swaying a good many of the all-important independent voters against the man who hopes to become president once again.
Of course, the media’s unhealthy obsession with Donald Trump is kicking in afresh now that he has announced for 2024. The American people can expect much more of this – and if Trump were to win the GOP presidential nomination, it will hit a fever pitch. Such as it is, should the former president find himself back in the White House, Americans will hear all about how the Saudis helped him steal the election.
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